By Carey Gillam
(Reuters) - California regulators violated the law by approving expanded use of pesticides that have been shown to hurt honeybees needed for pollinating key American crops, according to a lawsuit filed against the state by environmental groups on Tuesday.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting the state Department of Pesticide Regulation from approving any new neonicotinoid products or new uses of those products unless it completes a required re-evaulations of the pesticides.
The environmental and food safety non-profit groups also seek to overturn the department's recent approval of expanded use of Venom Insecticide, manufactured by Valent USA, a unit of Sumitomo Chemical Co Ltd, and Dinotefuran 20SG, made by Mitsui Chemicals Agro.
The Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and the Pesticide Action Network North America, filed the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court.
The Department of Pesticide Regulation, Valent USA and Mitsui Chemicals Agro did not respond to requests for comment.
The new insecticides are part of a controversial class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or "neonics," that have become a subject of scrutiny in Europe and the United States as concern has mounted that they harm honeybees and other pollinators, which are crucial to food production.
Honeybees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, including apples, almonds, watermelons and beans, according to U.S. government reports.
Neonics are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn, but they are also widely used on annual and perennial plants in lawns and gardens.
Over the past few years, bees have been dying at a rate the U.S. government says is economically unsustainable. The White House last month said it was forming a task force to study how to reverse the rapid decline in the number of honeybees.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)